Tuesday, January 3, 2012

...NYC, Day 2, Part 2: Russ & Daughters

For Day 1 of my NYC trip, click here.
For Day 2, Part 1, click here.

Everything I knew about New York City I learned from The Babysitters Club book series.

It's true - I read every single one of the books in the series religiously through my middle school and part of my high school years.  One of the characters, Stacey McGill, was originally from New York City, and she talked extensively about it in the series, even living there again at one point.

After reading these books, I had always wanted to try lox.

I did buy some at Whole Foods one day and made an omlette taco, of sorts, over the summer.  It's delicious - a cured, smoked salmon, which is salty, yet full of fishy flavor.  When paired with cream cheese and a bagel, it sounded like breakfast perfection.

On the train, James and I watched an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations", a Food Network program that, shockingly, I had never watched before.  In the New York City special episode, he visited Russ & Daughters, an appetizing shop that sells just what I wanted to try during our trip: lox.

We had to find it.

After leaving Eataly, we roamed the streets some more.  Walking...walking...walking...

We walked to Canal Street.  We walked into Chinatown.  We walked...

Ok, I don't want to sound like a Dr. Seuss story.  There was a lot of walking.

When we were almost at Russ & Daughters, we passed a restaurant called Rayuela, which turned out to be a Latin American fusion restaurant - just what we were seeking to satisfy our palates for dinner that night.  We made reservations for 9:00 PM, and continued to our destination.

Russ & Daughters, from across the street
 We entered - or really, squeezed into the doorway, because the place was packed, as I imagined it would be.  We took a number: 49.  

Packed like the sardines they sell in Russ & Daughters
 They called number 23.  Oh, boy.  This was going to be a wait.

If you'll recall, I am not a fan of crowds, but I wanted to check out what they had to offer.  James grabbed a menu, and I tried to look at what was in the cases, but I absolutely hate the feeling of being in the way all of the time.  Hate it.  So I became more and more miserable. 

I can't blame the workers - they are very helpful and allow you to try the meats before you buy them so that you are satisfied.  We waited for at least 45 minutes before Andrew called number 49.

Andrew sharpens his knife.  Look out.
Andrew is a true New York City character.  He was obviously annoyed by his previous customer, and I don't blame him - the guy was a pain in the behind, asking to chop up his lox after it was already packaged, for one thing - but I was afraid of how this would affect us.  James requested a sesame bagel with plain cream cheese, tomato, red onion, and belly lox.  Andrew seemed to doubt our lox choice, but allowed us to try a sample before we committed to it.

James swears he mumbled, "I doubt you'll like this," as he tossed the thin slice of lox on parchment paper to us.

Andrew shouldn't have doubted us, because we agreed that it was quite tasty - very salty, yes, but very tasty.  We also ordered eggplant salad, pickled salmon with onions, salmon tartare, horseradish cream cheese, and sable "to go", so that we would have something to go with our bagels at the hotel the next morning.
As Andrew got all of our foods packaged, his mood seemed to improve, and he turned out to be very helpful and jovial by the end of our experience.  Truly, he must have realized that he was dealing with some hardcore foodies, since we ended up liking the belly lox.

Sure.  We'll go with that.

We left the crowded appetizing store and sat on a bench outside to consume the bagel o'deliciousness.  

Belly lox, red onion, tomato, cream cheese, sesame bagel
The double-whipped cream cheese and salty belly lox, along with the veggies and bagel, were totally worth the wait.  I loved it.  I was not disappointed one bit.  My mood improved 3,9058,390%.  


The next morning, I went down to the complimentary buffet at our hotel, grabbed some orange juice and plain bagels, and brought them up to the room to try some of the other purchases.  I was most looking forward to the sable, because the sample that we tried at the store was absolutely divine.  I must - MUST - find somewhere in Pittsburgh that sells this.  Yes, it is about $50.00/lb. at Russ & Daughters, but you only need a small bit to make a fantastic bagel sandwich.

Top: Eggplant salad; Bottom: Bagel halves with horseradish cream cheese, plus salmon tartare (left) and sable (right)
Fabulous.  Fantastic.  Best New York breakfast anyone could ask for.  

I tried the pickled salmon with onions the next morning on my bagel, and wasn't quite as thrilled about it.  James liked it a lot - he seems to like anything pickled, like the pickled turnips from Pitaland in Brookline (I like those too, and didn't think that I would).  

Maybe I didn't like it as much because I was still so full that morning from our dinner at Babbo late the previous evening...

Russ & Daughters
179 E. Houston St.
New York, NY 10002

Russ & Daughters on Urbanspoon

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